So much for his boast that this would be a "year of action" and that with his pen and his phone, he would bypass a gridlocked Congress to get stuff done. When it suits the interests of the deep state, Obama prefers to punt the NSA controversy right over to Congress, whose lower House is, ever so conveniently, mulling an expansion of bulk surveillance capabilities.
And thus does Barack continue to lead from behind, governing by preference and passive-aggression rather than by any exertion of personal leadership.
The headline in today's White House propaganda mouthpiece is misleading to the extreme: "Obama Calls for an End to N.S.A.'s Bulk Data Collection."
He is doing no such thing. He is not ordering an end to it, he isn't even really "calling for" an end to it. Writes the New York Times' Charlie Savage:
Under the proposal, they (anonymous mealy-mouth White House source) said, the N.S.A. would end its systematic collection of data about Americans’ calling habits. The bulk records would stay in the hands of phone companies, which would not be required to retain the data for any longer than they normally would. And the N.S.A. could obtain specific records only with permission from a judge, using a new kind of court order.Translation: the spook agency (ies) could still easily obtain millions of specific records by a compliant rubber stamp judge under a new kind of sweeping, blanket court order if they so chose.
As part of the proposal, the administration has decided to ask the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to renew the program as it exists for at least one more 90-day cycle, senior administration officials said. But under the plan the administration has developed and now advocates, the officials said, it would later undergo major changes.Translation: the deadline for renewal is looming this Friday, and Barack is besieged from all sides -- by privacy groups and telecoms and media. So he will be renewing the bulk collection he now pretends to abhor for P.R. purposes.... for at least 90 more days. Not right now. He would prefer not to. By early July, if all goes well, the brouhaha will have died down and maybe even a new terror threat fabricated to stun the citizenry back into the compliance to which he had been accustomed before Ed Snowden shook things up.
The administration’s proposal will join a jumble of bills in Congress ranging from proposals that would authorize the current program with only minor adjustments, to proposals to end it.
In recent days, attention in Congress has shifted to legislation developed by leaders of the House Intelligence Committee. That bill, according to people familiar with a draft proposal, would have the court issue an overarching order authorizing the program, but allow the N.S.A. to issue subpoenas for specific phone records without prior judicial approval.Translation: Obama's preference will, by cynical design, get lost in the shuffle. The objective is to be seen "doing stuff". His proposal appears to be purely cosmetic.
The administration’s proposal would also include a provision clarifying whether Section 215 of the Patriot Act, due to expire next year unless Congress reauthorizes it, may in the future be legitimately interpreted as allowing bulk data collection of telephone data.
Translation: the president will, at his discretion, decide if he is required to pay attention to his own public relations bullshit. Additionally, he may at his preference or discretion allow the same illegal crap to continue under a different acronym. Or maybe not. Like Melville's Bartleby, he is a cipher, a bundle of contradictions and ambiguities.The proposal would not, however, affect other forms of bulk collection under the same provision. The C.I.A., for example, has obtained orders for bulk collection of records about international money transfers handled by companies like Western Union.
I'd prefer not to waste any more time examining his psyche or motivations. Just pay attention to the actual enfolding plot, rather than the muddled official synopsis of it, and the rave reviews by Obama's muddled defenders.